The Kansas State Wildcats won 11 games in 2012, were champions of the Big 12 and came one November loss to the Baylor Bears away from playing for the BCS National Championship. A major reason for their success last season was the strength of their defense, which ranked No. 2 in the Big 12 and could be counted to create turnovers and come up with huge stops in big moments. They will have a difficult time repeating their defensive performance in 2013, however, as they lose pretty much everybody next season.
Leading tackler Arthur Brown and his 100 tackles in 2012? Gone. Fellow linebacker Jarell Childs who had 66 tackles of his own? Graduated. Defensive backs Jarard Milo, Allen Chapman and Nigel Malone, who accounted for 82, 57 and 51 tackles respectively, have all moved on as well and they’re taking their 10 combined interceptions with them. And you can forget about the Wildcats’ top two defensive linemen, Adam Davis and Meshak Williams, and their 99 combined tackles in the tranches in Manhattan as well.
In all, seven of the top nine and 11 of Kansas State’s top 15 tacklers from 2012 will be moving on, which leaves a whole lot of production to replace for Bill Snyder and company next fall. The Wildcats’ will have solid experience in their secondary with Ty Zimmerman and Randall Evans back next season (the only two returners in the top nine tacklers from 2012). Elsewhere, it’s looking pretty thin.
K-State will happily welcome back linebacker Tre Walker, who was a starter last season but had his season cut short due to injury, but will need him to step up his production. In nine games last season, Walker tallied just 19 tackles with three tackles for loss. He’ll play alongside junior Jonathan Truman who finished No. 10 in tackles in his sophomore season, as they attempt to lead an inexperienced group back to the top of the Big 12 next fall.
The Wildcats will also look for a breakout season from defensive lineman Ryan Mueller who will be the top returning defensive lineman after just 14 tackles and three tackles for loss, including two sacks, in his sophomore season. The rest of the line will be filled out with young and untested players trying to make a name for themselves.
Bill Snyder is a coach that is most successful when he can lean on senior leadership to carry his team, evidenced by the Wildcats’ stellar 2012 campaign. It will be a bigger struggle in 2013, though, particularly on defense as new fresh faces try and step into starting roles and maintain the level of play of the outgoing seniors.
Don’t be surprised if Kansas State takes a step back next season as their defense gives up a few more big plays to the wide open, high-powered attacks of the Big 12.